Friday, January 31, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 31

1. My dad is home from the hospital! And by home I mean at his home in St. Louis. I wish I could be there again to help out and just see him, but I am pretty sure that three kids running around the small ranch house my parents own would not be helpful for a tired man recovering from a major surgery. So, I will have to settle for the occasional Skype conversation where all three girls chatter away at him for five minutes and tire him out. It was great to see him looking so well yesterday!

2. I have discovered how I am going to survive the rest of the Winter. I have a plan. I did not realize when we bought this house how wonderful it would be to have South facing windows all Winter. You see, even though we have at least 24" of snow currently on the ground, and it is crazy cold out all the time, it is sunny most days. Yesterday we woke up to a snow storm that brought us 6 new inches of snow, but as soon as the snow stopped the sun came out. I have sunshine in my kitchen nook from sunrise until 2pm everyday, and then it passes into the dining room, and finally into the living room. I am going to get to sit in the sun everyday for most of the Winter! And the cheery Winter sunshine if much more pleasant than the harsh, hot Summer sunshine.

3. Heavy cream is my children's new favorite ingredient in food. I made cream of mushroom soup the other night for dinner, and all through the meal my kids were saying: "Mmmmm, Mom, this is sooooo good! This is the best thing I have every had!" And I thought, yes it is a pretty good soup (thank you Julia Child). Then a few days later I made a quiche for dinner, and realized that it also called for heavy cream. Normally I use the highest fat milk we have around, and everyone likes it, but Wednesday I used cream. Oh my goodness, it was the creamiest quiche that I have ever had! G declared to me, "This is my favorite food ever! It is soooooo creamy!" And L said that she liked it even better than macaroni and cheese, which is the biggest compliment on food that one could ever receive from her.

4. I had a girls' craft night at my house last night. One of my friends from church organized it, and since M was going to be out late at a work dinner, I decided to host it this month (after I got the kids in bed). We had a really nice time, so nice that it was 10:45 PM before anyone realized it, and that is late for a bunch of moms who have husbands who work and children who need help sleeping. I took it as a good thing, that we were having such good conversation that we lost track of the time. Thanks for a nice evening ladies!

5. The difference between a Buffalo and a Minnesota winter is that in Buffalo you get lots of snow but you usually get a thaw about once a month or so, but in Minnesota the snow just piles and piles and stays frozen. Here is a comparison of our yard from the summer and what it looks like after yesterday's snow:

We are waiting to have a sledding hill that is taller than the fence...
The garden with a 20" fence around it.
Where is the garden now?

The parting of the Red Sea, the Grand Canyon, or our front walk, whichever you prefer...

6. A favorite active indoor activity of my kids is sliding down the (carpeted) stairs belly-down, feet first. They were demonstrating this to my brother and sister on Skype yesterday when my brother reminded me that we had done that in sleeping bags all the time growing up. I can't believe that I had forgotten about it! I mean now that I remember, I have memories of countless hours flying down stairs into piles of cushions. I am not sure we are willing to sacrifice our nice camping sleeping bag to the sliding on the stairs, but maybe when the kids get their first sleeping bags I will throw that idea our there...

7. I have run out of things about this week. It is hard to think of much when the whole week spent inside soaking in the sunshine in the comfort of my heated home. I'll just say that F (almost 15 months) refuses to walk, but loves to climb on tables and up and down stairs. However, she has really good balance on high surfaces so I am not too concerned...

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary. Head on over for more Quick Takes.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Survive the Polar Vortex

 When it is too cold for the old car to start, so your husband takes the van to work,

When your neighbor's driveway looks like a trench of snow,

When the man in your yard has been frozen for eight weeks, and the lady three as well, and there is no hope of them leaving for three more months,  


Then you put some roses in your sunny kitchen nook, 

Make snowman pancakes with chocolate chip faces,

Soak in the sunshine while you eat your lunch,

Remembering that it is not even Candlemas and still the Season After Epiphany,

And that Lent does not start until March!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Being Thankful

1. This week I have a lot to be thankful for, and the first is that my dad is alive. After his scary emergency surgery for his life threatening ascending aortic dissection it has hit me again and again that he would not be alive now if it were not for so many circumstances. Like he was running by a friend's house and saw his door open, the doctors figured out right away what was wrong, that modern medicine has advanced enough to solve this problem, that he had enough healthy tissue for the graft, and that he was working part-time as a referee of high school soccer so he had to be in good shape. I am so happy to still have him alive on earth, and I know I will cherish every visit, phone call, and text I have with him.

2. I am thankful for loving friends and family. It is amazing that I was able to share my dad's situation with hundreds of family and friends at once and to know that we were surrounded by the prayers of all of our loved ones in our time of greatest need. Thank you again.

3. I am thankful for God's healing power. Maybe Dad would have recovered without prayers, but the rapid recovery of his body and the preservation of his brain and other organs from potential oxygen loss could be miraculous. The nurse even said that she had not seen anything like it, reminding my family of the Gospel read when my Dad received the Anointing of the Sick.
-->And when he returned to Caper'na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic --"I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:1-12)4. I am thankful that St. Louis is close enough to St. Paul that we can start packing at 8:30 am, leave at 12:30 pm and get there by 9:30 pm. I felt close to my hometown for the first time since we moved here. If M had gotten a job at any other place he interviewed, a drive like that would not have been possible. Further, two days within one week of January hide dry roads, low traffic, and safe driving conditions!

5. I am thankful that we were able to spend three more days with my family this January, including cousin playtime which they all loved. I also got to bring my 37 week pregnant sister the green and yellow baby clothes I have in case she has a boy. I had forgotten to bring them at Christmas. Maybe it is the first grandson?

6. I am thankful for the beautiful day we had in St. Louis when it was 48°F and sunny and we took the the six girls to the park to run/crawl-scoot around. I am not sure I will see a day that nice until May...

7. I am thankful for a wonderful husband who was apart of my family through the whole process, and loved my Mom and Dad like a son and my siblings like a brother. And that his does not start teaching classes again until February so that we had the freedom to travel.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dad's Emergency Surgery

"It is the most catastrophic thing your body can do to itself," the surgeon said to my mother as he explained to her the surgery that my father was about to undergo.
Dad and F two weeks before his aortic dissection.
The Saturday had started off normal enough. Mom had spent the day with friends at some sort of prayer event and Dad had been getting ready for his composers forum and decided to go for a run up around the park half a mile from their house.

Mom in St. Louis, MO called me around 5:15 pm as I was attempting to get dinner started in St. Paul, MN. She had a question about my tomato sauce recipe, and I was making my mother-in-law's beef stroganoff. We got off the phone and five minutes later my brother called me. It was strange to get a call from my brother P. He prefers to talk in person, and we had just been in St. Louis ten days before. I answered the phone, "Susanna, Mom just got a call from Dad's friend Sam. He was running at W park and had some chest pain and is at Sam's house who lives right by the park. The paramedics are coming. Is M with you?" I got off the phone and started praying. M came into the kitchen and I told him. We hugged and gathered the girls and said a prayer. I then got dinner ready, because the kids still had to be fed. My mom called to tell me that Dad had passed out right when she got there, but woke up for the paramedics. They took him by ambulance to the hospital. My brother called to say that he was driving my mom, and that my sister S was with them.  I got dinner in the oven and was about to shower when P called and said that they were doing a CT scan focusing on the area around my dad's heart. In the shower, alone with my thoughts, it hit me. I was not ready to say goodbye to my dad; I am not sure if anyone ever is ready to do it. I know that one day, one of us will die, but it was not meant to be this week. I longed to talk to him again, to see him play with love his grandchildren. I wanted my children to have him. I prayed that he would live.

I found out later that the ER doctor heard about Dad's symptoms of the chest pain shooting from his heart to his head, his fainting, and then his intense pain in his right leg, and figured immediately that it was an aortic dissection. They had trouble getting an IV into Dad before his CT scan, because he was writhing in pain from his leg. When the scan was over (about an hour after my brother's first call), I received another call. Dad was going to have emergency surgery. His aorta had dissected ascending from his heart all the way descending to his right leg. If they did not do the surgery, he would die. The surgeon explained in detail to my mom, my brother, and my sister what was going to happen in surgery. He described all of the risks and that there were certain things that could have happened in Dad's aorta which would make the repairing surgery impossible.

P later told me that Mom recited her wedding vows to Dad as he was wheeled toward surgery.

At home in St. Paul, M and I tried to eat dinner. The kids felt our level of anxiety and struggled through dinner as well. We asked friends and family for prayers and went through the motions to get our kids to bed. My head was in a fog of anxiety and helplessness. I prayed with all my heart that everything would turn out okay. We finally got the kids to bed, and went through the motions of cleaning up after dinner. I was not sure what to do, if we should go to St. Louis or not even if Dad survived the surgery. We decided to wait to see what happened with the surgery.

Shortly before 11 pm, my brother told me that Dad's bypass had been complete and that the next step was to repair the aorta. They had to cut away the damaged tissue and replace it with a mesh-like piece of plastic, which would then allow new aortal tissue to grow over it an create a new aorta vessel over the plastic graft. It is an incredible thing that they are able to do. To do the repair, they removed all of my dad's blood and reduced his body temperature so that he was in a sort of stasis. The repair was achieved in 20 minutes and they raised his temperature and returned his blood to his body.

But at 11 pm that Saturday night, we did not know if there was enough healthy tissue for the graft to be sewn on to. At the hospital my Mom sat with my brother, my sister, and all six of my dad's siblings and their spouses. That is a lot of people! M and I went to bed for a fitful night of sleep. I could not get my memories of running with my dad around W park out of my head. I was never a runner until college, and so the majority of my runs at that park were with my dad during visits to home.

I was woken up at 3:50 am by a hungry one year old, I stumbled to her room to resettled her. I checked my phone out of habit and saw that I had missed a call from my brother and had this text from him: "He's out. Now in the ICU. Surgery went well. Now it's time to recover. He's not completely out of the woods, but things are looking up." I told M, and then called to get more details. Then again I could not go back to sleep. It was Sunday morning, and Dad was supposed to be sedated until Monday afternoon. I was not sure if we should go to St. Louis or not. My sister MC was already there with her family; she had driven 3 hours the night before and was 37 weeks pregnant.

The night finally ended, and we got up to go to 7:30 am Mass. I then decided that I really wanted to be in St. Louis; my heart wanted to be there with my family and with Dad. M wanted to go also. Dad would want us to follow our hearts, so we decided to go. I prayed for him through all of Mass, and afterwards our pastor came by our seats and we told him the situation and he said that he would pray. We then drove home, and I called my mom to let her know that we were coming.

We started packing at 8:30 am and were all in the car, having eaten lunch, and leaving at 12:30 pm. The first two hours of the drive were dreadful, we could not think of anything but our anxiety for my dad. There was concern that he would had possibly lost too much oxygen to his organs before his surgery or that the cooling process and blood removal may not have left him fully himself. I tried not to call since I knew that dad was receiving the Anointing of the Sick.

Finally my mom called around 2:30 pm. Dad had woken up! He was not supposed to yet, but at 8:15 am, the nurses were moving him and he started to wake. They let him wake up. One of the nurses said that she had never seen anything like his recovery that first day after his surgery. M and I had lifted spirits after that phone call. Dad was recovering so well so quickly. We made it St. Louis in 9 hours. We only stopped twice, and had what my Grandpa T calls an "uneventful trip".

My sisters had made our room ready for us, and we quickly got the kids to bed. I then went to see Dad. I arrived and he was glad to see me. He told me a little bit of what he remembered had happened, but he was tired and I did not want him to exert himself. He also told a few silly jokes, and I knew that he was doing better and better.

The rest of our visit was so beautiful. The six cousins spent hours playing together, and my siblings and I supported Mom as best we could and were just together. It was not an easy visit, but it was important. Everytime we saw Dad, he told me how glad he was that we had come, and when we left on Thursday morning, it was the hardest thing. I just wanted to be near my dad, and see him improve with my own eyes.

He is doing so much better now, and should be leaving the ICU today and moving to telemetry. There are so many blessings that will come out of all of this, and the main one is that my dad is still alive on Earth. I pray that we have many more years with him, to grow in holiness and love.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 17

1. I had to put down a novel, The Nether World by George Gissing, to write these today. It is either a sign that it is a good book or I have lost the habit of writing since we traveled for three weeks. Or maybe both. I have had several topics bouncing around my head this week and all I have to show for it is that I am 82 pages into a new novel, which is better I suppose than perusing the internet for all of naptimes. Being married to M means that he thinks it is a productive naptime when I sit and read for an hour or so, which is not a problem in my book. I will try to get back into writing in the next week. Another reason I put off writing these is that we did not really do much interesting this week, besides playdate, our church moms' group, and the library. It was a pretty laid back week. Oh, and I reorganized the kids preschool things moving them from the front closet back to their permanent home in the basement. See, these are the kind of quick takes I am writing for you all this week. Not very interesting.

2. Have you heard of the new Spencer Trappist Ale? While they claim it is named for the town the monks live in, I am sure they also had our family in mind. I hope to try the genuine trappist beer someday; maybe someone will ship it to Minnesota.

3. L (3) has a fever today and I am really hoping that it is not the flu. It would be pretty annoying to have us all get sick, but then I could have reasons to stay inside and at home and not feel guilty not seeing anybody. Please pray for our health, because it would be much more fun to be able to go places. :)

4. Sunday it was 39°F out and I took the big girls outside and we reconstructed the old snowman and made him a snowwoman. I am pretty sure that he is a few inches shorter than he was originally. They also took advantage of the warmer temperatures to go sledding with M. They loved it. I think next time we will all have to go.

5. I am really thankful that we invested in a treadmill back in October. I have been using it a lot, and because it is way to cold to exercise outside. I might actually get back to my pre-baby weight. I have managed to after each baby and was giving up on this time since it has been over a year. I guess it just gets harder as one gets older? I mean I am closer to thirty than twenty...

6. M and I spent most of an evening the other night sitting and talking like we used to do back in college. When we lived on campus we would meet up in the courtyard between our dormitories in the evening and pray Night Prayer and then talk for awhile. When we were both off campus, we would eat dinner at one of our houses, do homework, and then sit and talk for awhile until M drove me home or he left for his house. Since we've had kids, we usually plan on doing things like reading or watching shows or movies, rarely do we sit and just talk when the kids are in bed. (We talk a lot throughout a day, but evenings are usually for relaxing.) What inspired it was the talk our pastor Fr. M gave at the moms' group, when he asked about the first dates each woman had had with her husband. Later M and I reminisced about our "first dates" which consisted of walking together all over the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and then the second time we dated all over the little town of Gaming, Austria. Even now walks alone together, especially in the snow, remind us of our early relationship.

7. My friend C gave the girls this Advent calendar published by Magnificat. The kids really like it, and what is so great about it that it has a little window to open on Candlemas Day (The Presentation of Our Lord) February 2, which is the Traditional end of the Christmas season. So, our tree is still up as well as the lights I put up in our nook. If you need a little bit more of Christmas or the Season after Epiphany, come on over. :)

Linking on up with the lovely host of Seven Quick Takes Jen the Executive Vice President of Blogging at

Friday, January 10, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 10

1. Merry Christmas (it is still the Season After Epiphany!) and Happy New Year! I took a little vacation from my blog to spend nearly three weeks traveling with M and the kids to visit almost every relative we could and a number of friends. Of four large family gatherings in three different states, we only missed one and that could not be helped. As Road Trip Pros, we clocked 2200 miles on our van going from Minnesota, through Wisconsin, Indiana, stopping in Michigan, stopping in Ohio, going back through Indiana, stopping in Illinois, stopping in Missouri, and then headed back up North through Iowa and back into Minnesota! It was a lot of fun, and we had great times with family.

2. The house survived our prolonged absence without any major problems, without any problems that we can tell. Even the Polar Vortex left our home unscathed. Turning off the water and the hot water heater, and praying continually everyday that nothing would go wrong or flood seems to have worked out for us this time. We would not like to have another Saga of the Leaky Pipe.

3. Our good old snowman still stands in the front yard. I have never had a snowman this old! I will have to post a picture of him when I take a new one.
The day he was made. Now he is five weeks old!
4. The kids had today what we call "the grandparent effect", which occurs after they have been visiting with other adults who give them more attention than they normally get at home. L (3) complained all day that she wanted to go on another trip, and G (4.5) got so cranky that she took a nap (which happens for her every 60 days or so). F (1) could not handle life today, but I think that was due to teething and having a cold. We will adjust back into normal life soon.

5. When we were in St. Louis, we were reminded of how they deal with snow outside of Minnesota (and Buffalo, NY): CLOSE EVERYTHING! They had 8-12 inches on a Sunday, and then a high of 5 the next day. Everything was closed, all the schools and many businesses. We stayed inside, because, really who likes to be in a -15 windchill? My mom braved the great outdoors to pick up our favorite St. Louis Style pizza. They opened at 4pm for pickup only, and we were so relieved! We almost went all the way to St. Louis without our favorite pizza! We made a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard run the night before the storm, and my dad stocked up on their quart sizes while everyone else was buying milk and bread.

6. Now that we are past the holiday business, I am going to start a Winter deep clean/organization. There are things we moved that we never unpacked and things that got brought up from the basement that never were put back, plus we have a new excess of toys. I am going to make it through the Winter by busying myself inside with lots of things to do. Starting next week I am going to make my lists and get into organization mode.

7. I am not sure what else to say tonight, since I am being waited for by my husband. We are going to rewatch a few Sherlocks before PBS airs the new season in 11 days. If you want to catch up, PBS has the old shows available for watching until January 19.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary.

The Power of Memories

Twice a year my family would pack up for a week and drive nine hours from St. Louis to the Cleveland to visit my mom’s parents. We felt very close to them despite our infrequent visits. Visiting their home was a very special part of our childhood, as my parents relaxed for a week and my siblings and I played all the old board games with each other and with our “Ohio cousins”.

As I go back there as an adult, I bring my husband and my own children, and sleep in the same bedroom, watch my children play with the same toys, and talk to Grandma in the same kitchen. Being able to visit the home my mother grew up in year after year means so much to me since it gives me a taste of my mother’s childhood and now my own.

Now I live nine hours from my parents house and we visit about twice a year. My children are old enough to remember the house, the toys, and the visits here. It is so special for them, to pack up and arrive at the home of their loving grandparents and often an aunt or uncle. The house has not changed much since I left for college, and my children experience it as the same every time we come. They create memories with each other, with us, and with their grandparents, aunts, and uncle.

For me, it is a bit surreal only “going home” twice a year. I have memories of growing up in every part of every room, that come back to me every visit.. We moved in when I was one year old (about the age of my youngest) and my dad spent several years building a bedroom in the basement. That became “the girls’ room”, and since it is so large it now accommodates us when we visit. When I go in the room now, and see my daughter sleeping in my old part of the room, and remember being a little girl here, it brings a sense of unity to my life.

Moving far away from home to a different state in my own house is so strange for me sometimes, and coming home brings my life together. It all makes sense. I remember the blessed childhood I had, in a beautiful, loving family.  When I am at home, I am with myself as a baby, a child, and a teenager. I remember myself when I am there.

God’s relationship with us is outside of time. He knows our whole life. But we live in time, and relate to him as temporal beings. Our memories help us to understand our lives as a unity.  Everything we have experienced is a part of us, who we are now, and who we will be at the end of our lives. Coming home helps me to understand myself as I was before I moved away. I see more of the progression of my life. Maybe it is not ideal to live hundreds of miles away from where I grew up, but I am blessed that I am able to visit my childhood home and to see the unity in my life.

When we returned this past autumn to Buffalo, NY where M and I spent the first four years of our marriage and where our first two children were born, I once again experienced the power of my memories. I had been trying to make sense of my longing for the place and people we had left behind, and returning helped me find closure in our moving away. My memories there are part of my life and who I am.

On our long car trips, we have been listening to the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be living so close to family as the Ingalls did in Wisconsin and then pick up and move to Oklahoma, knowing that they would probably never see their family again. I imagine that writing the story of her life, even if it is slightly fictionalized was an attempt at finding unity in a life so interrupted by moving. Her life was held together by her memories

The Holy Family spent a number of years traveling, before they settled down back in Nazareth, so I often think of Our Lady in a strange land with the only continuity of life being that of her family. We are told that after the shepherds visit to the Infant Jesus she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Our memories are something to ponder in our hearts, especially the ones that reveal God’s love to us. Remembering our past, and pondering it in our hearts is a way to understand and know ourselves as God knows us. Memories are part of who we are.

Originally at Truth and Charity...
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